Mahershala Ali to Play Boxing Legend Jack Johnson in HBO Limited Series

Mahershala Ali Ramy

Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali is climbing back into the premium cable ring to play legendary boxer Jack Johnson in a limited series in development at HBO.

Titled Unruly, the six-part series is being billed as “an unapologetically Black, no-holds-barred telling of Jack Johnson, the world’s first Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion. This bold exploration depicts the champion’s rise to athletic greatness and the costs he paid for his skin and defiance, which created a blueprint for Black resistance in every justice movement for generations to come.”

The project is based on Ken Burns’ PBS documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, as well as the accompanying companion book by Geoffrey C. Ward

Acclaimed playwright and Shameless co-producer Dominique Morisseau will serve as writer/EP alongside Ali and Tom Hanks. House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, who cast Ali in the Netflix political thriller, will be a Co-EP.

Ali, who returns to the HBO fold after starring in the third seasin of True Detective, played Johnson in one of his first professional acting jobs: a stage production of The Great White Hope in 2000.